Our stay in Orange Beach was very short as we had to get back to Chicago. Our plans were to be in Chicago for a month to catch up on work for Ben, orthodontist appointments for Madelyn, Thanksgiving and visits with family. So, we did the dreaded boat packing up, emptied and shut off one of our fridges, and loaded up a dock cart in between downpours. One of the Pensacola Harbor Hosts was generous enough to drive to Orange Beach and pick us up. Unfortunately for a one way rental we had to go to Pensacola for a car. The rental car office in Orange Beach was very short on cars post hurricane. So, she picked us and our embarrassing amount of stuff up and drove us to Pensacola.
After a 14 hour drive home (11 hours the first day with a quick 3ish the second day) we made it home in time for the girls to make it to their cooking class. We unloaded the car and the fun continued. On top of the unpacking we had the great task of going through 6 weeks of mail and packages. The boxes emptied and piled up were incredible. But just as we were going to take them all out to the recycling the girls asked if they could keep them. With a basement to play in instead of just the boat, they had room to spread out and be creative. They took all those boxes and constructed a box fort! Somehow I don’t have any pictures of it, but they went on to outfit it with blankets and camping lights and toys. Eventually, as a wrap up to an electricity unit in Science, they wired it with lights and a doorbell! We left it as is when we came back to the boat so they’ll have it when next we are home.
After the humdrum of all of the unpacking and mail tasks we took some time to see friends and family. Lunch at the Walnut Room with Grandma Cathy has become a tradition for the girls. While there they mailed letters to Santa. We went to Danville for Thanksgiving and spent it with my (Laura’s) family along with a local wedding celebration for Emily and Josh.
We did some wintery things. We faced some of the white stuff….UGH! Baked Christmas cookies.
Spent some time at the Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. Ben spent a lot of time on home repairs (sinks and furnaces, plus some trips to the Michigan houses). We had a great Hanukkah/early Christmas celebration with Ben’s family. Maddy started her orthodontist work and had a palate expander installed. We waited two more weeks while Ben turned the device twice a day. After two weeks they told us she needed more turns but it was time we headed back to the boat. We arranged to send pictures of her mouth in a couple of weeks and go from there.
So, we loaded the car once again. We decided to take a car back to the boat with us since we will spend most of the winter sitting still in one place or another. A car is not necessary but quite helpful and with Ben needing to mail things for Yacht Devices most days a car was important. It also would allow us to visit friends and family throughout FL while we are there. Our packing this time was insane. We’d been on the fence for so long about when we would head back that I finally had to start Christmas shopping. We also brought our water maker back to loan to our friends the Zeeffs for their Bahamas trip. Ben had all of his Yacht Devices inventory. We had all of our bags we came home with. Three backpacks with work and school stuff. And three huge bags of Christmas gifts. We had to order a soft sided car top carrier to fit it all. An even more embarrassing amount of stuff than we left with! But we needed it all and off we went. Our Elf even joined us for the drive. And no, Maddy did not get glasses, they are fake.
This trip we stopped at my mom and Jim’s (Laura’s) to celebrate an early Christmas with them. This knocked two hours off of the drive. We were in the car at 6 AM the next morning to knock out all 12 hours remaining. Orange Beach was a welcome sight. So tired of the car we jumped out and soaked up the warmish air. Fresh air, some running around, unloading the entire car, and seeing those beautiful palm trees felt great!
While we were in Chicago a similar amount of packages for Panbo arrived back at the boat waiting for Ben. He was feeling pressure to get back there and started on a lot of Panbo work. I took over the front bedroom as Christmas storage as well as Yacht Devices. It was off limits for dolls and playing until after the holidays! Somehow I managed to unpack and organize bags while Ben tackled the impressive amount of boxes that had indeed arrived.
Amidst all of this craziness the girls and I managed to get out in the fresh air and try out their new rollerblades! They also got to try their hand at ice skating in FL. There was a rink in Orange Beach and they were desperate to try it out. They had a blast but we told them it was a once and done activity as being in FL meant we didn’t have to sit around in the cold!
Before leaving Orange Beach we had a visit to the Pensacola Naval Museum planned. Stay tuned….